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Wild water swimming anyone?

Published: Thursday, 11th March 2021

Helen Marsh who works in mental health has become a wild water swimmer during lockdown

Helen Marsh pictured with the blue flask and mental health worker colleague Sally Turner who have taken up wild swimming during lockdown

Wild water swimming is not for everyone – but Barnoldswick mother of three Helen Marsh says it's one of the most exhilarating things she has ever done!

For the uninitiated, wild water swimming is done outdoors in open water, whatever the weather or temperature.

Helen took up her new hobby just as the first lockdown eased last year.

“I work in a mental health crisis department and I could see the effect the restrictions were having on people’s wellbeing,” said Helen.

“So, when I read how wild water swimming can lift your mood, I decided to have a go.”

She was a little apprehensive the first time she got into the water, but after just one outing she became a huge fan.

“It feels amazing. It’s so cold you can’t think of anything else other than surviving, so it completely clears your mind,” she said.

 “I did wonder whether it was another hobby I would start and then drop, but I have carried on through winter even when we went back into lockdown and I could only do it locally.”

It doesn’t sound to be a hobby for the faint-hearted, the water recording a high of 1.5 degrees on her last swim.

“It’s a real shock to the system – but the high you get after is amazing,” she said.

Stressing the importance of always going with family or a friend for safety, Helen said there are several groups on Facebook people can join or get advice from if they want to know more. 

Mindful of the stay close to home rules, she currently swims locally, but is looking forward to the time when she can travel further afield again.

“You just can’t beat it, it has everything you want out of a hobby,” said Helen.

“You get to enjoy nature and scenery, connections with a friend, overcoming your fears and just totally switching off from daily life for a few minutes.

“This past year has been so hard for everyone and this is such a great release.”

So far, she hasn’t persuaded her twin daughters, Holly and Abbie (17) or her son Harry (14) to join her in the water.

“They’re happy to be on standby with a flask of hot water, but nothing more,” laughed Helen. 

Councillor David Whipp, Deputy Leader of Pendle Council, said: “This hobby may prove a little too extreme for some and should only be enjoyed with great care by experienced swimmers who are accompanied, taking steps to ensure safety.

“It does demonstrate just how important it is to look after your mental health and wellbeing at this time.

Leader of Pendle Council, Councillor Mohammed Iqbal MBE, added:

“Helen has found a way to continue her passion within the restrictions and while we know just how much people are missing the gym and other group and team activities, we need to stay safe and keep following the rules.

For the latest guidance and rules on Covid-19 and support available, please visit Pendle Council’s website